In an e-mail yesterday, a friend sympathetic to Romney suggested something interesting, and pregnant with pathos: That Romney really believed, in his heart of hearts, that he was going to be the most important Mormon since Joseph Smith. And he failed. My friend said that the pain Romney, who is plainly very serious about his faith (“It’s the only thing I think he really believes in,” said my friend), must be feeling today is intense.

That remark put me in mind of a subject that came up a few years back, when Glenn Beck was in his TV heyday: the White Horse Prophecy.  Supposedly Joseph Smith once prophesied that the day would come when the Constitution would be “hanging by a thread,” and elders of the Mormon Church would save it from destruction. Beck, a Mormon convert, would talk on his program about how the Constitution was “hanging by a thread.” He had the Mormon US Sen. Orrin Hatch on, who would use the same words.

During his first presidential run, Mitt Romney was asked about the White Horse Prophecy, and downplayed it, telling the Salt Lake Tribune:

“That’s not official church doctrine. There are a lot of things that are speculation and discussion by church members and even church leaders that aren’t official church doctrine. I don’t put that at the heart of my religious belief.”

That’s not exactly a denial, but Romney has also said that his father, George Romney, did not believe in the prophecy. The Tribune article also says that the LDS Church officially disavows the prophecy as inauthentic. I’ll accept that, though it is poignant to contemplate the prospect that Mitt Romney may have lain in his bed at night and thought about this supposed prophecy, and wondered if he would be its fulfillment.

More prosaically, and more importantly, there is my friend’s point: Romney carried with him the hope of members of his faith, once a despised and persecuted minority, and now on the verge of having one of its own elected president of the United States — and despite all his hard work, he failed. Think of Democrat Al Smith’s pain as the first Catholic presidential nominee, losing to Herbert Hoover in a landslide.

If I were a Mormon, even if I were a Mormon who didn’t vote for Romney, I would still be proud of him and what he did for us.